Adviser "blames minister" for plane engine failure
Presidential adviser Oliver Antic has said that Minister Zoran Mihajlovic is to blame for the malfunction of a government plane.Source: Beta, Danas, Tanjug
President Tomislav Nikolic was traveling on the Falcon 50 last Friday when one of its engines failed in mid-flight, forcing the plane to turn back and him to canceled his official visit to the Vatican.
Mihajlovic's Ministry of Construction and Transport on Monday published "a part of the report" about the incident, saying that "coffee spilled in the cockpit" was the reason for the engine failure.
But Antic rejected this, saying that "the president's life was in danger because the relevant ministry led by Zorana Mihajlovic did not follow procedures and react to failures which had been pointed out."
Antic told the Belgrade-based daily Danas that it was found during the inspection by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration - carried out on two carriers in Serbia who want to fly to the United States - that the Civil Aviation Directorate "has no controller" for the government aircraft, a Learjet and a Falcon. The Directorate was ordered to correct this, but did not, he said.
"It is the responsibility of Minister of Transport Zorana Mihajlovic to appoint these controllers... It would be good if she were to deal a little with her own job," said Antic.
"There is no doubt that there was an engine failure, all this has now been established, that the plane was losing altitude, and so on ... The causal link between the coffee and the engine's shutdown is completely fictional and has no connection. To point out to some coffee, while the engine stopped running, that's not serious," said Antic.
He added that the fact that the engine failed was "proof there is no serious engine maintenance" and rejected the claims that the passengers on the plane exaggerated the seriousness of the incident.
Addressing also the public quarrel between Mihajlovic and another presidential adviser, Stanislava Pak, Antic has supported the view that the minister was leading a campaign against the president's office.
"Stanislava Pak has established that on a factual level, if this is not clear to you, then fine," said Antic.
The plane on which Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic recently flew to Vatican was returned to Belgrade from the flight to Rome after the emergency slots were accidentally extended from the cockpit and the third engine stopped working, Civil Aviation Directorate Director Marija Cizmarov said on Tuesday.
Addressing an extraordinary press conference at which a preliminary report on events during the April 17 flight was unveiled, Cizmarov said that the crew of the Falcon 50 plane noticed the error and stabilized the aircraft's flight.
During the return to the Belgrade airport, the crew restarted the third engine in mid-flight using the required procedure, she said.
The plane was subjected to inspection immediately after the return, Cizmarov said.
A test flight was attempted on the following day, but it was impossible to start engine number three and a problem in the engine's fuel system was detected.
The report said that a decision was made to fly the plane to the Basel service base on two engines for subsequent tests on the third engine.
"Spilled coffee" could be the reason why the plane turned back, said the Directorate's media chief Aleksandar Godic, but added that "the final report" will be known once the craft returns from Basel. During the same news conference Cizmarov "denied that politics got mixed up in the drafting of the report," saying that the Directorate is "an independent regulatory body that deals only with aircraft safety."